The UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, while on a visit to Sierra Leone, defended the decision to move the high-profile trial of ex-Liberian president Charles Taylor to facilities in Europe.
A UN-backed Special Court in Sierra Leone indicted Taylor for war crimes in that country’s ten year civil war, including supplying weapons in return for so-called “blood diamonds”.
Taylor was arrested on the Nigeria/Cameroon border in March and hauled to the Special Court facility in Freetown. But court and UN officials concerned that his presence in Sierra Leone could pose a threat to regional security opted to shift his trial to facilities in The Hague, Netherlands.
Annan on Monday defended that decision, saying: “We wanted Taylor to be tried in an environment which is free from the sort of tensions and conflict we see in this region.”
According to Annan, a West Africa Taylor trial could destabilise fragile peace in the sub-region where a number of countries including Sierra Leone and Liberia are recovering from years of brutal civil war.
“Taylor was based in Liberia, Taylor was active within the sub region and there was a judgment it is best to try him in a place away from this sub-region,” Annan said.
If Taylor is found guilty on any of seven indictments, the UK government has offered to jail the charismatic former president and rebel leader in a British prison.
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